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'In Descent Proposal' Pilot Flies for a Living


Ryan Thompson and Carlie Kennedy
Ryan and Carlie's whirlwind week continued with an appearance on Ellen.

October 4, 2012 - On Monday, when EAA first posted the story about the viral YouTube video showing EAA member Ryan Thompson's feigned in-flight emergency ruse to propose to his girlfriend Carlie Kennedy, the video had garnered just more than 1.4 million views.

After five days, more media attention, and an appearance on the Ellen show (which aired on Wednesday), that more than doubled to 3.1 million. It certainly has been a whirlwind week for the regional jet pilot and surgery resident.

"It's been unreal," Thompson said Thursday. "We're just now getting a moment to relax." At the end of their Ellen appearance, host Ellen DeGeneres blew them away by presenting an all-expenses-paid honeymoon vacation to Rome and Venice, Italy.

The Backstory

Thompson, who has about 3,000 hours of flight time with the airline, rented an airplane - a Diamond DA40 - from Chicago Executive Airport, and during the process of getting checked out in the aircraft came up with the emergency idea. He created a phony emergency checklist he would ask Kennedy to read when he started the ruse.

So on what Thompson described as a gorgeous February 11, 2012, they took off about 2 p.m., flew east to Lake Michigan, and headed south down the shoreline. With the camera rolling, they eventually turned around and headed back north - past Soldier Field (and Northerly Island, where Meigs Field used to be) - before they got near Navy Pier.

As if right on cue, Thompson said they hit some bumpy air he decided to put his plan into motion, nosing the plane down and telling Kennedy, "Honey, I need you to stay calm. The flight controls aren't responding. I'm going to need you to read through this emergency procedure." Of course, he said, he was in complete control of the airplane the entire time.

He felt confident she would not "freak out" as she is a surgery resident. On the Ellen show she even revealed, "On a daily basis I deal with real-life emergencies, so when he pulled out that checklist, I snapped into business mode!

"Once the 'emergency' was over and the proposal became apparent, I was so excited I couldn't be mad, and I've not been mad at him yet."

As for the video, although it was shot in February, the final edit wasn't posted until September 25 and linked to family and friends through Facebook. It suddenly had 10,000 views. Then it was featured on a TV news report in Australia, then really exploded after the couple was interviewed on ABC's Good Morning America last Friday.

They have yet to set a date - he is currently in grad school pursuing a master's degree in aeronautical science online through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and she is continuing her residency.

"Wedding planning has had to take a backseat to life for the time being," Thompson said.


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